The bike ride was long and on a partially eroded trail. Trees reached out to brush against me on one side and a drop-off threatened on the other. I stopped often to get my bearings and breathe, walking when it overwhelmed me.
“This path is too over-stimulating. I can’t take it all in at once,” I complained, ducking under another tree branch and falling off the bike for the nineteenth time.
We took a break when we ran into the rest of our group who had started an hour before us. They were sitting, enjoying the view and eating lunch. I walked down to the water. I needed to touch it, to feel it between my palms, cool and crisp. I kneeled over, reaching my hands out, testing my balance—almost falling in when a larger wave came and I was careless in my haste to get away from it. I laughed with delight and Doug laughed with me. I have been surrounded by mountains, but something about the water calls to me. It soothes me. I see it flowing by my window right now and somehow the words come easier when I pause to breathe and see—to watch the water curve away from me, carving the earth as it passes.
We climbed back up to the trail to continue the bike ride and it happened.
I did it again. That moment when I looked up and make eye contact with a stranger. I studied her. I weighed her. I looked at another human being and viewed her as competition. It’s not something I’m proud of—but it seems to be a visceral response when I encounter an unknown person.
I begin comparing her and I, wondering which of us has more to offer.
Who will be more valued and loved?
Who has the better story? The better life?
Who is more fit? Better looking?
Who is more engaging and interesting?
As I walked up the hill I studied her, eyeing her. That look. The calculated one. I smiled at her, hoping to appear friendly and she gave me a half smile back. And I climbed on my bike and thought about what it would be like with her at the cabin for the next 24 hours.
And then something shifted.
I thought about what I had just experienced, the water and the fun and the breathing. The peace and the joy Doug and I were absorbing and radiating as we sat by the water. I saw us laughing and playing, taking pictures and embracing all that we are.
And with different eyes, I saw how I would want to be part of that. I saw that it was attractive—and I experienced a moment of clarity—this is how people see me.
I embrace. I am warm. I am intuitive and somehow often manage to find words people need to hear. I am quiet and calm and peaceful. I am tender and generous. I saw me as my friends experience me. And those feelings of warmth and acceptance towards myself led me to want to breathe that over this unknown woman. I wanted her to feel her value. I wanted her to feel connection. I wanted her to experience a quiet joy.
It wasn’t rebuke my heart needed—it was acceptance. I could have spent hours praying and repenting over the “sin.” But it was knowing I am enough and I am loved that did the heart-work. And this heart-knowledge led me from viewing through the lens of competition to viewing through the lens of connection.
The weighing and the measuring were forgotten. Now my desire was to experience and know this person for the amount of time we would have together.
I expect that I am still learning this—it’s an otherworldly response in a world that tells us there are a limited number of spaces. A limited number of resources. It’s a different lens, this idea of abundance—that I can take all the space I need and you can take all the space you need and there is more than enough. I don’t quiet know how to do it well yet, because I’ve grown up in a world were we fight like dogs for scraps under the table. But I’m loving this new freedom where I can champion and connect and rest, knowing that there’s room for me, too. I don’t have to weigh and measure and give side-eyes as I watch to see what someone’s planning to take from me.
As a teenager, I experienced the vanity that all teenagers experience and wanted to have nicer things. So I spent my own money to buy higher quality shampoo and conditioner than what my mom would buy. I hoarded that stuff like it was liquid gold, carrying it to and from the showers and hiding it in my bedroom. I didn’t want my two sisters to use it, and I knew they would if I left it in the shower. Because I thought there wasn’t enough, I held onto it. I fought for it. I clung to something that I thought was precious. Where’s the shampoo now? It’s been washed down the drain a million times over. Where are my sisters? We’re still learning how to support each other because we didn’t fully learn it as kids. We spent too much time weighing and judging. We spent too little time celebrating and championing each other.
I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to cling to my little world rather than getting to experience the wild beauty that surrounds me. I want to trust that there’s abundance. That there is room and space for all of us to stretch out and breathe, to dip our fingers in the water, to be fully present and enjoying life. I want a space where we don’t have to fight for scraps because we believe there is so much more.
My heart is full today because I saw a glimpse of what that looks like for me.